The Lovely One and I have neighbors on each side of our home. We used to only have another house to our east, but then a few years ago, the Methodists, who originally owned everything out on this little street, decided to build a new parsonage. No problem there, except we had seriously considered buying half that neighboring lot and planting a near-forest of trees to maintain our privacy. Not enough money with an insufficiently clear plan brought that notion nowhere. However, we couldnʼt ask for nicer neighbors, although both sides probably find me too quirky and irreligious for their actual tastes. Except for the occasional heinous scream of fury as some inanimate object (like a computer) refuses to cooperate with my inexorable will, I hope the close proximity of this low person has not troubled either family too much.
Our new neighbors to the west raise an amazing amount of garden crops every summer. And they learned that Janet and I enjoy squash and zucchini, which they have shared open-handedly. Unfortunately there are only two of us, and last summer we received so much generosity we didnʼt really know how to consume all our gleanings. I make a fine dish I call “scumble” that mixes garlic, onions, diced tomatoes, mushrooms (I would add mushrooms to anything!) and squash or zucchini in a large skillet with or without some shredded fish; we both enjoy that dish served over brown rice. And we like to grill slices of squash (or even microwave them with a little oil). But last summer we often only could eat four or six vegetables a week.
When the bounty began to arrive this year, we enjoyed scumble once, then The Lovely One got inventive, and we discovered a wonderful new dinner treat. Soup!
Although I used up most of Wednesday (and a bit of Thursday morning) responding both here and on Facebook to some disapproval on what amounted to the introduction only of my Sunbird lit-crit essay (you can check on my wit and wisdom here, and maybe Iʼll copy the Facebook transactions some time soon as a post, an effort I had imagined during former FB exchanges but elected through sloth to lie dormant and therefore invisible), I did have time enough late in the day midweek to make a new meal for our household. Discovered by Janet through simple websearching, we had truly delicious “zucchini” soup on Wednesday evening. I put the key word in quotes because we call what we used “yellow squash” as opposed to the narrower and green actual zucchini.
Janet found the recipe at EatingWell.com (actually a Fitness Magazine site). I think she chose that one because it was really simple and straightforward, requiring only chicken broth (preferably reduced-sodium), zucchini, tarragon or dill (chopped fresh or dried), reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. It sounded so easy, she thought I could handle it.
Of course, even when handing over the recipe printout, she suggested some additional improvements, which I incorporated. Her first idea was to initially grill the sliced squash, hoping to derive some of that smokiness for the final soup. So I sliced all three squash we had on hand and obediently grilled the slices, lightly brushing some olive oil on each side of each one. Some slices burnt, some toasted, some got soft, and some seemed still pretty raw (and some fell through the grill until I realized I should use our fish grate). Having pulled five or eight slices off the grill at a time, I stacked them up and then sliced across the pile of disks, halving them, quartering those by slicing in half the other direction, and then halving each set of quarters. Since the soup was going into the blender, I wasnʼt sure how small to cut the pieces, but this size seemed to work very well.
As I finished all the slices, I first sautéed a bunch of garlic (I let it get a little too brown in this process) and a whole onion, sliced and chopped. I started warming four ounces of broth (from a boxed product I bought at Aldi) into which I put the onion and garlic and then the chopped up slices of squash as I pulled them off the grill. I added salt (unnecessary) and pepper. I added some garlic powder and some onion powder. And then I could not find any tarragon. I did see our dried dill, but in receiving the recipe I had misheard Janet to say she thought tarragon would be better than dill (she had actually said the exact opposite), so I thought I had a problem.
However, I didnʼt panic. In grabbing through our spices, I found the curry powder, which it seemed to me would be a good flavor with squash. So I added some curry powder. I let the soup boil and simmer for about fifteen minutes (to cook the squash that might have come off the grill less than done). Then, as the recipe instructed, I put the hot stuff into the blender (it took two fillings) and let the machine crunch and munch to create a thick soup, which smelled great.
It tasted even better. We each had a huge bowl with some bread for dinner Wednesday night, as we watched a rented movie, Peter Jacksonʼs reimagining of The Lovely Bones (more on which another time perhaps), which was beautiful and spooky, a lot like the novel, only different. The film with the soup made for a fine evening, even though I got to wash up the dishes as well as making the food.
I am writing on Thursday/yesterday, and weʼre going to finish the soup with grilled tilapia and some 90-second rice tonight. It was/is that good.
Best of all — weʼre ready for more squash and zucchini any time.
Janetʼs Squash Soup
- 4 cups of chicken broth (reduced sodium would be fine)
- 3 medium to large yellow squash, grilled in slices then cut into eighths
- Fresh garlic (a clove or four) minced
- 1 medium or large onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of ground pepper (I didnʼt measure, but I put in a lot more than the ¼ teaspoon from the original recipe)
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- 3 or 4 (or ten) tablespoons of curry powder (Iʼll stick to the recipe we actually created, so no tarragon or dill) — suit your own taste on the amount
- About a cup of reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (I used a mix of nonfat and regular shredded Cheddar)
Slice and grill the squash and then chop up the slices. (Next time I might skip the olive oil basting on each side of each slice.) Sauté the onions and garlic. Heat the chicken broth in a large, deep pan. While bringing the broth to a boil, add the onion and garlic and the chopped squash. Stir in the spices (pepper, garlic and onion powders, curry powder) to taste. Let the soup simmer for about twenty minutes.
Purée in a blender (it will probably take two or three fillings of the blender jar) and return the puréed soup to the pan over medium or low heat. Stir in the shredded cheese. (I stirred the cheese straight into the hot soup in a plastic bowl, with no reheating).
We ate the soup hot, but the original recipe says to serve either hot or cold.
I sautéed in margarine, but butter would add flavor, I believe (we just never use it).
No, we are not vegetarians (note the cheese — which isnʼt actually a necessary ingredient, to my taste, for the information of any actually vegetarian readers), but vegetable foods do seem the most healthy choice, so we eat meatless a lot. And then other times we have steaks (or fish or pork chops, or — just thinking of a recipe I have yet to provide — beef stroganoff).
Once again, the source, the original zucchini soup recipe, is here.
Now bring on the summer squash!